True innovation

There are probably not a lot of words that get misinterpreted so many times as the word innovation. Anybody today who builds a friends list on their site, who releases an API, who created a ‘viral’ ….(you catch my drift) is innovating. Bullshit. Innovation refers to something that wasn’t done before and most of what happens on the web today is a copy of a copy… so hardly true innovation.

Why this statement? A few weeks ago I met for lunch with the founder of an independent financial services company. He and his marketing manager (who’s an ex-colleague) wanted to know more about whole this social media stuff and they knew I was kind of ‘active’ in that area so therefor the lunch. A quick initial check during lunch on what they knew and didn’t know didn’t take long. Flickr? Never heard of. Okay – get it.

To get the right idea of what needed to be done they then started to explain what their business was and how they saw their company move into the future. And to be honest, they explained me the most innovative business approach that I had heard for a while. Unfortunately I can’t tell you what it is but just take it from me that it was. Everything was there. It’s totally different from the typical business approach in that sector, it gave incredible power to their communities, they really let go of control, … Very cool. So what was missing? The right tools, techniques, services, etc to do so.

And then it hit me again. It’s not because people are on Twitter, Friendfeed, Facebook and blogs that they’re necessarily innovative. On the contrary. If ever that is what an agency or a social media consultant comes to tell you then run away (fast). Don’t turn away though because someone hasn’t heard about Twitter. They still might be more innovative thinkers than the rest of us and you know what the coolest job of all is? Making sure you work with the right people and use the right toolset to translate that really innovative idea into reality. That’s what me thinks.

Oh and for the record, my friends at the independent financial services company is looking for someone to do exactly that.



  1. Cam Beck says:

    Excellent illustration, Kris.

    Just because someone knows how to fill in the little oval next to a candidate’s name in the voting booth doesn’t mean they’re suitable for the presidency.

  2. Marcus says:

    now look who’s got his mojo back! ;-)

  3. Kris Hoet says:

    @Cam: Great analogy, glad you liked the post.

    @Marcus: You reckon? :)

  4. Marcus says:

    Oh yes – this is a cracking good post Kris.

  5. Empedocles says:

    You might find this post interesting on the theme of innovating / jumping the curve
    (Guy Kawasaki )

  6. Gavin Heaton says:

    Nice post. Truly intriguing. But you are right, of course. Some of the most innovative (and creative) people I have ever met have never touched a computer. Sometimes innovation is simply applying your domain knowledge to a different industry. And I have a feeling that this “social media” thing will become a whole lot more interesting when there is a serious alignment between (say) a financial/health services company and a good SM team/strategist/tools.

  7. D.J. Allen says:

    Great post, frustrating but great, I have worked with innovative thinkers most of my career. They are goof balls, or ahead of their time or some other word that makes them stranger than fiction. This makes them scary people to many of the corp. drag queens that are “Leading” the innovative change.
    All I can say, is “The best job in the world is working with the right people, putting tools into the hands of ordinary people and working together to make it happen.” It is as humble as can be, to know that as crazy as we may be, when we look back, the changes came from many people that did not have degrees, did not lead the world, government or state. But came home everyday try to make things work.
    Thanks for the posts and comments.

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